The Greatest Movement in the World
Although you would never know it if you just read secular newspapers or watched the evening news on TV, Christianity is the greatest movement in the world. When it comes to the incredible growth and impact of Christianity worldwide it could be called "The Greatest Story ever Missed!"
The Church of Jesus Christ is a worldwide movement with representatives in every country of the world. The Kingdom of Christ has more citizens than even the most populous nation on earth. It has many more employees and "customers" than Coca-Cola, Microsoft or General Motors. The worldwide assets of the church far exceed the combined assets of the "Fortune 500" companies. Americans alone give ten times more to churches and ministries than they spend on sports each year. Church attendance each month greatly exceeds the combined numbers of those who will attend sporting events throughout any entire year.1
The all time, best selling book in history, every year, is actually: the Bible. There has never been any close second. The Bible is also the most translated, read and studied book in all of history. Every year the Bible is translated into 18 new languages. By the year 2000 AD, eight out of every ten people will have access to the entire Bible in their own language. Nine out of ten will have access to a New Testament. Already over 2 600 languages have at least a portion of the Bible translated.2
The Gospel is also being broadcast by radio in over 250 languages. By the year 2000 radio broadcasts and audio Gospel recordings and tapes are expected to have the potential to communicate to over 99% of the world's population.3
The most translated and widely viewed film in history is the "JESUS" film. Over 750 million people in 217 countries have seen the Jesus film. New translations of the film are being produced every 10 days. By the year 2000 the "Jesus" film will be available in languages known by 99% of the world's population.3
"Lift up your eyes and look at the fields..." John 4:35
These incredible missionary achievements and ongoing projects are all the more remarkable when one considers the historical perspective: After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ there were 120 believers gathered to pray. Within a few days 3000 had been added. After 3 centuries of recurring persecution in the Roman Empire there were 10 million professing Christians alive. At the end of the first millennium, 1000 AD, this number had grown to 50 million. By the year 1800 the number of those who claimed to be Christians (of all denominations - Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant) was 215 million.1
In the 1886 book "The Crisis of Missions", by Pierson, the first century of modern Protestant missions was analysed. In just 100 years Bible translations had multiplied from 50 to 250; mission boards from 7 to 100, male missionaries from 170 to 3000; contributions from $250 000 to $10 million and converts in the field from 50 000 to 2.5 million.4
Source: Operation World:
In 1795 the modern missionary movement was launched by William Carey. Within a century, by 1900, the number of professing Christians had more than doubled to 500 million! In this century the number of nominal Christians has quadrupled to about 2 Billion!
Now statistics can be misleading, and how many of those numbers represent truly born again Christians - only God knows. However, even if only a fraction of those who claim to be Christian have a real relationship with Christ as their Lord and Saviour - the numbers involved would still be vast. There is nothing in history to compare with the worldwide expansion of the Church of Christ, nor the enormous missionary efforts it involves and the spiritual hunger it represents.
Church statistician, Dr David Barrett has calculated the following to indicate the ratio of evangelical Bible believing Christians to the total number of people in the world at that time:
1430 - one to ninety nine
1790 - one to forty nine
1940 - one to thirty two
1960 - one to twenty four
1980 - one to sixteen
1993 - one to nine
Today 700 million people would claim to be born again believers. Barrett reports that "the Kingdom of Christ is expanding . . . at over three times the rate of world population growth"
A further indication of the rapid escalation of missionary activity is seen in the fact that in 1970, two-thirds of the world's nominal Christians were in the West (Europe and the USA). Yet today 75% of Christians live in the non-Western world. There are therefore now far more Christians in the "mission fields" than in the traditional "sending countries!" In Africa for example there were 10 million Christians in 1900. Today over 300 million Africans claim to be Christians! In Latin America there were only 50000 Protestants in 1900. By the year 2000 there will probably be 100 million Protestants in South and Central America!1
In Asia the Church is expanding at an unprecedented rate. In China alone, an average of 25000 are being added to the church everyday! And this is in spite of intense persecution. The words of Christ are being fulfilled:
"Upon this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:18
The great challenge before the Church today is the urgent need for Bible teaching. The world is being superficially evangelised, but inadequately discipled. Especially in Africa we continually receive desperate pleas for more literature and more leadership training. For this reason the members of Christian Action Network are dedicated to providing Bible based books, newsletters, leaflets, tapes, radio broadcasts and leadership training courses such as the Discipleship Training Course, the Reformation and Revival Seminar, the Biblical Worldview Seminar, the God and Government Seminar, the Great Commission Workshop and the Summit.
The huge, largely untapped potential of the world Christian movement to transform this world is incalculable. In the past, God fearing, Bible believing Christians put a stop to human sacrifices, infanticide, bloodsports, cannibalism, widow burning, child prostitution, slavery and a host of other previously pervasive atrocities. Imagine what can be achieved in the future with the worldwide manpower, resources and facilities of the Church - if we were to earnestly mobilise Christians to prayer and repentance? And if God were to graciously pour out His Spirit in worldwide revival - the results would be electrifying! As Benjamin Franklin declared: "Whoever shall introduce into public affairs the principles of primitive Christianity will change the face of the world!"
The immense potential is there. The church is all too often a sleeping giant. Yet if the Church worldwide were to wake up, reformation and revival would change the world!
"If My people, who are called by My Name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
Dr. Peter Hammond
1. The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail by D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, Nelson, 1996.
2. Operation World by Patrick Johnstone, Zondervan, 1993.
3. The Unfinished Task by Luis Bush, AD 2000 and Beyond, 1997.
4. What in the World is God Doing? by C. Gordon Olson, Global, 1994.
EUTHANASIA AND THE MAN EATING LIONS OF TSAVO
The extra-ordinary true story of the two man eating lions of Tsavo was dramatised recently by the Paramount Pictures film "The Ghost and the Darkness."
In the advertisements for the film the claim was made: "Only the most incredible parts of the story are true." A careful comparison of the 1996 film with the original 1907 book upon which the film is based makes that clear.
It is a fact that two powerful 200 kg lions (one with a blonde mane, the other with a black mane) terrorised the railway construction workers at Tsavo in Kenya throughout 1898. They indeed were the lions who stopped a railway - bringing all construction work to a standstill for over four months. They defied all attempts to trap and kill them. They attacked by night and day. They came into people's tents and even railway carriages and carried off their victims leaping over 8 foot bomas (fences made of thorn bushes). The lions outwitted some of the finest hunters and marksmen the British could field in Kenya.
One lion did indeed walk straight into the elaborately set up railway box car trap. The door came down behind him and the 3 riflemen positioned as bait safely behind bars on the other end of the box car opened fire. Yet the lion evaded the 12 rounds fired at point blank range and smashed through the door, escaping unharmed! And Patterson's first clear shot of one of the lions did misfire. He anathematised the day that he accepted a borrowed rifle and took an unproven weapon into the field.
These and many other aspects of the incredible story are true and are documented in Lt. Col. John Patterson's book "The Man Eaters of Tsavo" published in 1907.
However, much of the Paramount film is pure Hollywood invention. There were only 2 man eating lions and it took 4 months of stalking them before Patterson even saw one. The first "lucky shot" on the first night of the first man eating lion - never happened.
There was actually no American game hunter involved at all. The Remington character played by Michael Douglas was fictitious. No doubt Hollywood scriptwriters believe they must insert an American character as central to any plot - even such an obvious misfit as the anachronistic Remington who might fit in the 1990's in Los Angeles but certainly not the 1890's in Africa. The British engineer Patterson actually shot both of the man eaters.
The headman Samuel who plays such a key part in the film was another Hollywood invention. The only headman in the book had a far less honourable role.
More seriously the reason for the unprecedented killing spree of these lions is just ignored in the film. The horrible fact is that the local tribes had the practise of laying out their elderly, sick and infirmed people by the riverside to be eaten by wild animals. The lions apparently developed a taste for human flesh and a contempt for these frail human beings who couldn't even run very fast. Euthanasia led to the reign of terror by these man eaters.
For some reason in the film, John Patterson is depicted as a secular humanist who claims that he is "beyond conversion."
In fact Col. Patterson was a Bible believing Christian who was a faithful member of the Church of England. In the First World War, Patterson founded the first Jewish Regiment since the Maccabees.
UCANEWS 5/97 3
He led the Zion Regiment in battle against the Turks at Gallipoli and in Palestine. For the rest of his life, from 1915 to 1947 Patterson dedicated his life to seeing their homeland Israel restored to the Jewish people.
Why do so many scriptwriters in Hollywood find the need to distort history and delete any positive references to Christianity? Instead of accepting Patterson's Christian faith and the role that it played in his courageous lone struggle to protect his workers, "The Ghost and the Darkness" invents another weaker character who is made out to be a "Bible thumper" - yet who is killed by a lion. That too is fiction. In fact no Christian was killed by these lions.
And of course a thoroughly pagan American character, Remington, who declares "I am the devil!" has centre stage in this film version. Why change history when the real story is even more incredible and exciting than Hollywood's predictable cliche's of the 1990's?
Obviously Patterson never started a veld fire and never fired aimlessly into the air to bring the lion into the open! That never happened and it would have been counter productive.
Actually there were many great scenes in the book which would have made the film more effective. Like the time when so many people scrambled up a tree to escape the lions that the whole tree fell over spilling the people directly towards the lion! There were two attempts on Patterson's life by murderous mobs of his workers - which he only escaped by the skin of his teeth. On another occasion the trolley Patterson was travelling in, raced downhill towards the river - without a working brake. The trolley jumped the rails, he flew through the air, just missing a projecting beam and crashed into a sand bank by the side of the river with the trolley landing next to him.
In the book there is also an excruciating description of a time when three men sleeping in a railway carriage were woken up by a lion pushing open the sliding door and pinning down one man, mauling another. The third man on the top bunk ran over the head and back of the lion to escape, but the local workers were holding the door shut to keep the lion inside. The poor trapped man had great difficulty wrenching the door open to escape. The lion then leapt out, crashing through one of the windows carrying his victim with him while the man who had been pinned down dived through another window and escaped! That true account would have made a far more harrowing film sequence than the fictitious, and highly irresponsible, veld fire scene.
So, what is actually behind Hollywood's "This is a true story" (Sure, but only the facts have been changed - as well as some fictitious characters thrown in and history distorted) films? They cannot say they are "improving upon the original story" because, as with so many of their films, the book is actually far better. The truth is not only stranger than fiction - it is also often more visually impressive as well.
The whole reason for the horrifying man eaters of Tsavo was man's inhumanity to man - the callous practise of forced euthanasia - condemning the elderly and infirmed to be killed. The breaking of God's commands to honour the aged, to care for the sick and not to commit murder have terrible consequences. "A man reaps what he sows." (Galatians 6:7). And his Christian faith inspired Patterson's extraordinary courage and persistence.
The bias of all too many scriptwriters and film producers against Christianity is leading to a dangerous distortion of reality in the minds of those many people for whom Hollywood is their primary source of knowledge about the past.
We need to re-discover the importance and enjoyment of reading some of the great classics and history books - about what really happened. A correct understanding of the past is an indispensible aid in making a better future.
Dr. Peter Hammond
Permission to quote from or reproduce is encouraged, provided that due acknowledgement is given.
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